Saturday, January 17, 2009

How much does "free" cost?

For years, my sister has been telling me to hang my own shingle. She thought I could make a bundle as a freelance writer, because she's in the business and sees how much they charge. In my performance reviews, I always said that I would eventually go out on my own; I wanted to be my own boss, be in charge of my time. So, finally, after six months of interviewing, volunteering and generally figuring out who I am, I started doing some freelance writing.

Many think this is the ideal gig for moms. You get to flex your creative muscles, cover any gaps in your resume, and still be there for your kids. Oh yeah, and you can make money!

But I'd like to bust that last myth. Freedom and flexibility have a cost--one that can easily be measured in dollars. The writing I've been doing, whether commercial or corporate, comes pretty cheap. I know by speaking with some other "independents" I'm not making as much as I could. Some are making three or four times my hourly rate, which amounts to a heck of a lot more when you tally up your invoices at the end of the year.

But this is what I get in exchange for my freedom. I couldn't pretend to provide for a family on what I'm making right now. I'm lucky I don't have to, but being type A, it's hard for me to admit this. If I wanted to make that kind of money, I could, but then I'd need to put in a lot more hours than I'm willing to give right now.

I spent quite a bit of time in a previous life documenting the HR "total rewards" packages that companies put together when they stop handing out raises. Given this, I'm looking at what else I'm getting as a freelancer rather than, well, actual money. I found a great example Friday when I got the call from daycare to pick up my daughter because of a mysterious rash. I wasn't upset when I got the call. This reaction was so much different from how I'd reacted in the past, when I was in corporateland. I told my husband honestly that it was okay--I had no deadlines looming so I could look at it as a little extra girl time. I felt no guilt. And, later, after the doctor's diagnosis of Fifth Disease, which is no longer contagious after the rash presents itself, I felt no anger at a day wasted. Because the day wasn't really wasted--I took my girl grocery shopping, we met the new doctor, we took a nap.

Since leaving the corporate world, my currency has changed. I'm starting to look not just at how much I'm making an hour, but rather how I'm spending my days. I don't always do this, and I still think far too much about my dwindling 401(k) and bank account, but I really am trying to see the total rewards of being free.

1 comment:

pregnancy quiz said...

Include a bit of freedom within those boundaries; "you can play anywhere in your playroom or bedroom with those toys, but not in the living room." Such boundaries allow her to practice making small decisions and to learn self-control.